Two wrongs make a right (fallacy)

From Academic Kids

Two wrongs make a right is a logical fallacy that occurs when it is assumed that if one wrong is committed, another second wrong will cancel it out. Like many fallacies, it typically appears as the hidden major premise in an enthymeme — an unstated assumption which must be true for the premises to lead to the conclusion.

Often it can be a fallacy of distraction or an attempt to change the issue.

For example:

  • Speaker A: President Williams lied in his testimony to Congress. He should not do that.
  • Speaker B: But you're ignoring the fact that President Robertson lied in his Congressional testimony!

If President Robertson lied in his Congressional testimony, that does not make it acceptable or OK for President Williams to do so as well. In this usage it may also be similar to the bandwagon fallacy (as an "appeal to popularity"); both are red herring fallacies.

Ad hominem attack in the tu quoque form is a subfallacy. Accusing another person of not practicing what they preach clearly is not enough to reject or justify either.

It could be considered an appeal to emotion when it is used as an appeal to revenge:

  • They blew up our storehouses! So, we should burn down their village.

The wrongness of one action does not somehow automatically make it either morally good or rationally prudent to act in vengeance to that. Cycles of violence like this may also be justified using causal oversimplification, wrong direction and various attributional biases. See also groupthink.

This fallacy is often committed by children. An example:

  • Parent: Jim, why did you pull your sister's hair, don't you know that's wrong?
  • Jim: I know, but she pinched me first.

To this, the parent may respond, "two wrongs don't make a right".

Alleged examples

External links

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